December 5th, 2013
04:35 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama lived with Kenyan uncle prior to law school, White House says

Update 7:12 p.m. ET, 12/6/2013

(CNN) - The White House clarified Thursday that President Barack Obama did live with his Kenyan uncle in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a "brief period of time" before attending Harvard Law School in the 1980s after previously saying there was no record of the two ever meeting.

The clarification comes amid GOP criticism over the issue of Obama’s honesty and trustworthiness, two personal traits the president has taken a hit on in recent polls.

Obama apologizes for health coverage cancellations due to Obamacare

Onyango Okech Obama, President Obama's uncle, was granted permission Tuesday by a federal immigration judge to stay in the United States, where he has lived illegally for the past five decades. In his testimony before the judge, Obama's uncle mentioned that then-student Obama had stayed with him for three weeks after he was accepted into law school.

The White House was asked about their relationship in 2011 at which time the administration said there was no record of the President and Onyango Okech Obama having ever met. Carney retracted that information Thursday saying that the President himself had never been consulted about their relationship.

"Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the President's book, and there was no evidence that they had met. And that was what was conveyed. Nobody spoke to the President," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

"When Omar Obama said the other day and there were reports that he had said the other day that President Obama, back when he was a law school student, had stayed with him in Cambridge, I thought it was the right thing to do to go ask him."

Carney continued: "Nobody had asked him in the past, and the President said that he in fact had met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school and that he stayed with him for a brief period of time until his, the President's, apartment was ready."

Carney said after that period, Obama and his uncle "saw each other once every few months while the President was in Cambridge" but eventually "fell out of touch."

The White House said they had no record that the President had met his relative after his uncle was arrested for drunk driving in 2011. The driving violation brought to light Onyango Okech Obama's illegal status, and he was then ordered to regularly check in with immigration.

"The President has not seen Omar Obama in 20 years, and has not spoken with him in roughly 10 years," Carney said, adding that Obama had "absolutely zero" involvement in his relative's deportation case.

Onyango Okech Obama isn't the first of the President's relatives to have issues with immigration status. Onyango Okech Obama's sister, Zeituni Onyango, was granted permission to stay in the United States in 2010 after a six-year-plus legal battle over her status.

While the immigration court was considering Zeituni Onyango's case in 2009, then-White House spokesman Ben Labolt said Obama would stay out of his aunt's immigration case and "the president believes that the case should run its ordinary course."

It seems that Onyango Okech Obama's appearance and mention of his nephew's stay before law school in immigration court earlier this week was what prompted the White House to take measures to correct the record.

The administration's initial denial that the President had met his uncle and subsequent reversal of the record raises speculation that Onyango Okech Obama's court appearances and immigration status first led the White House to distance the President from the controversy and deliver misleading information.

The President is already facing questions about his credibility after technological issues and reports of canceled insurance plans plagued the recent rollout of parts of Obamacare, the sweeping healthcare reform law passed in his first term. A CNN/ORC International survey released last month indicates that 53% of Americans now believe that Obama is not honest and trustworthy, the first time that a clear majority in CNN polling has felt that way.

The reversal over details of Obama's relationship with his uncle could prove to be another detriment to Obama's credibility with the public.

Obama: People do think I'm trustworthy

And Republicans say the White House's change of story indicates a lack of trustworthiness in the President.

"It just goes back to this thing of the White House not being completely forthright with facts with the public. It's what's contributed to his trustworthiness numbers going way down," said Republican Strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro said Friday.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Obama has been "lying to the American people."

"He's been exposed. And these little lies, like, you know, lying about whether you met someone or not that's been significant in your life - listen, those are big things because it goes to the character of the person that you're dealing with," he said Thursday on Fox News.

"And President Obama is proving himself not to be trustworthy on the small things and now the very big things."

Obama attended Harvard Law School beginning in 1988 when he was 28 after serving as a community organizer in Chicago.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (1,714 Responses)
  1. Mike

    I think a lot of you commenting are failing to read the article in its entirety or you are hearing what you want to hear. The President did not lie about this. His staff initially answered the question without seeking the truth from the President himself. When the President was finally asked personally, he provided the truth. What's the big deal? Oh yea, unemployment is at a 5 year low.

    December 6, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  2. hjfarmer

    @Garrett from Texas - love your post and am copying for later pasters to see. Thank you

    "No one talked to the President about it" will be the one-liner description of Obama's part of the history books.

    Fast and Furious? No one talked to the President about it
    Black Panthers? No one talked to the President about it
    Benghazi? No one talked to the President about it
    DHS releasing illegal aliens before the sequester? No one talked to the President about it
    That promise about your insurance was inaccurate? No one talked to the President about it
    The website wasn't going to work? No one talked to the President about it
    Iran got some of their captured spies released by the US but wouldn't give up American christians? No one talked to the President about it
    The NSA is snooping on every American in violation of the 4th Amendment? No one talked to the President about it
    The IRS held off the applications for tax free status to enemies of the Administration? No one talked to the President about it
    The IRS released Romney's tax records illegally No one talked to the President about it
    The current President of the United States knew about, supported, and lived with his illegal alien uncle and maybe their relationship got that uncle special treatment? No one talked to the President about it

    What exactly DO his people talk to the President about?

    December 6, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  3. Mike

    If you can show me 1 Person IN POLITICS that does not Lie to cover their Butt then we'll make this a Story. LYING has been made accepted to the American People whethere you arer Dem or Rep..........and When a Person in Politics lies and gets caught they all Claim this So Called Politcally Correct Statement as if this makes it ok.........."I DON'T RECALL THAT EVENT OR THAT STATEMENT".............UNTIL WE KICK THE LIERS OUT OFFICE...............MOVE ON !!!!!

    December 6, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Mark in Montana

    If a politician's lips are moving, you know he is lying.

    December 6, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. Denise

    The pollster calls during dinner or while your favorite NFL team is playing on Sunday and asks "Did Obama lie about living with his uncle?" lol seriously, dittoheads you need to get a life......tell Boss Hogg to put down the fries and pills.....

    December 6, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. phil

    how many kids does his uncle and aunt zatuni have children? how many obamas are there.?

    December 6, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. JT

    who cares...

    & btw...Bush never lied. Oh right he lied his way into a war where thousands died....I forgot already.

    December 6, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. robb

    our Kenyan president has a case of the forgot me nots

    December 6, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. nomorefreeloders

    That's it , lets give the illegal of 50 years residency IN PRISON! He can warm a place for the illegal Obama.

    December 6, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. Matt Vraspir

    Who cares?

    December 6, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. Ashley

    So lets analyze this for a second. As a former military personnel with a security clearance, my background was investigated thoroughly. Obama was a US Senator and in order to become a senator an extensive background investigation is done. Obama then ran in the democratic race in order to represent the party in the US presidential campaign. Yet again a background check is done to ensure that the possible next president doesn't have any skeletons. He won! Now he's running for president and holy crap you have to investigate this person. For Christ sakes he has the chance to be the president of the United States. Then he wins, now he"s the US president and he got reelected!

    So are you're telling me that a person can become a US Senator, run for president, become president and no one knew where he lived while conducting a background investigation and granting someone with the highest US security clearance?

    Highly doubtful seems like just more BS to try and discredit this man. He is the most disrespected president in history.

    December 6, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  12. hopethispost

    What a surprise. Obama lied again and reversed his story.

    December 6, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. JM

    Oh brother...some people have no sense of what matters and what doesn't. Hating/vilifying seems to be a hobby for some.

    December 6, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. mfh

    Another day, another lie revealed.

    December 6, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. Keleynal

    Is anyone else tired of hearing about how little Obama knows about what staffers say about him, his policies, his politics, his background, ect?

    December 6, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  16. Neville Barbour

    All I can say is wow. It is truly amazing just what people latch on to and claim to understand. Here we have a silly issue about the President staying with an uncle over two decades ago for a span of three weeks. What is the real issue here, from what I have read here, a vast majority of the folk who are claiming that everything that comes out of the Presiden'ts mouth is a lie, are liars themselves or woefuly uninformed. Rather than sit around continually calling the President incompetent, liar, socialist, marxist, etc. Why not reflect on your own accomplishments, how far have you gotten with your life, what can you do better to make life easier for yourself and others? This constat whining is getting old, very old.

    December 6, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. TiredofSilly1

    You mean BHO...........LIED?!?!?!?!?! Does he ever do anything else?

    December 6, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. not quite right

    is he really from hawaii or was that a scam too? not that i have anything against kenyans, but our system is too lax. time to throw these foreign people and religious nutjobs out of our government. they're sucking the life out of us. this country started going downhill about 50 years ago and has never recovered.

    December 6, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. Denise

    I knew it, it all makes sense now. This is where he first hatched the plot to destroy America. His foreign uncle was his mentor of sorts.

    December 6, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  20. Patrick

    This has taken plausible deniability to new heights. Now If I was a young reporter, footloose and fancy-free, I would ask why they would lie about something so mundane

    December 6, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. DH

    And this killed how many Americans in Iraq ????? 4,000 Americans dying due to bush/Cheney lies tops ANYTHING pres Obama could ever do, but you I'd!ots keep running with your hair on fire.

    December 6, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  22. Me


    Once again, you moronic people cannot distinguish the difference between lying and being wrong. Certainly there should be consequences for being wrong, however you cannot treat being wrong the same as a lie.
    Ok, the SAME SHOULD BE TRUE ABOUT BUSH THEN, he was just WRONG about WMD in Iraq, I would bet you have called him a liar!!!!!!!!!!!! LMFAO Liberals have NO integrity, NONE!!!

    December 6, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  23. gadzod

    How convenient that his Uncle was granted to stay in the United States after 50 years of breaking the law.....

    December 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  24. joe

    At least it was a relative who helped an American citizen when he was down at homeless. Give his uncle full citizenry for his bravery you stupid morons

    December 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  25. Denise

    Obama was never vetted, another dittohead talking point. lol

    December 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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